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District readies for state assessment

Rebound from COVID layoff expected

SOLON– After a one-year, COVID-induced hiatus, Solon students will take a statewide assessment in 2021.
And while districts nationwide are dealing with a learning gap due to school closures and online curriculum, Solon’s administration expects to bounce back.
The Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) was introduced two years ago, explained Solon Community School District (SCSD) Director of Teaching and Learning Josh Lyons during a Dec. 17 school board meeting.
SCSD students took the ISASP during the 2018-2019 school year with paper and pencil, he noted.
There were a lot of questions whether the statewide tests would resume in 2021, he said, but the state has decided to move forward with a March 15 to May 14 testing period.
Solon students will take the test between March 29 and April 9, Lyons said. The two-week window should work well for the district in regards to other assessments, he added.
The ISASP was built for third through 11th grade, with only fifth, eighth and 10th grades taking the science portion, he said.
Instead of taking on the added introduction of the online version, students will again take the assessments with paper and pencil, he told board members during the monthly administration report.
Staff will be trained how to administer the tests, including security, accessibility and test environment.
Students who are enrolled 100 percent online and those who are homeschooled will also be provided an opportunity to participate, Lyons said.
Once compiled, the 2021 results will be compared to 2019 data, he continued, with expanded reports and information specific to the district, building and student.
Lyons presented a brief overview of the 2019 results.
“Which we were really, really excited about back then, and we were geared up and ready for last spring’s assessment before the pandemic, and excited to see how we were going to perform on that,” he observed.
In 2019, seventh through 11th graders were over 90 percent proficient on the ISASP in English and Language Arts, with 11th graders also 92 proficient in math.
The district as a whole compared favorably to the state average, ahead by double-digit percentages at every grade level and every subject matter except one, ninth grade math, which was nine percentage points ahead of the state.
Superintendent Davis Eidahl said he was excited about the state’s decision to conduct the assessment.
“We feel good about how our kids are going to perform,” he said. “They’ve been in school all year, so we feel good about that.”
Board President Tim Brown observed recent discussions at a statewide level indicated concern for extreme drop-offs in proficiency across Iowa.
Brown noted it would be good for the district to obtain more data.
At the November board meeting, Eidahl said, Lakeview Elementary and Solon Intermediate School Principal Jessica Tabor reported on the estimated impact of the COVID-19 break on kindergarten through fifth grade.
“When you break from school in March and you don’t come back until August, you’re going to see some slide,” he observed.
Although student performance dropped back, Eidahl said, there is remarkable acceleration going on in the classrooms. Teachers are doing a great job, and kids are coming to school every day.
“You’re going to see some remarkable gains,” he predicted. “We’re going to close that and go beyond what we lost.”

Professional development planned
Lyons also delivered a summary of efforts to move past COVID-19 mitigation efforts in upcoming professional development days.
He said the district was going to slowly move forward by digging back into goals and priorities waylaid by the pandemic, reintroducing structures previously in place for teacher time on Thursdays, with professional development days on Monday, Jan. 18, and Monday, Feb. 15.
In January, he said, kindergarten through fifth grade staff will review math in relation to Guaranteed Viable Curriculum (GVC) standards and will learn more about Open Educational resources with Grant Wood Area Education Agency. Open Educational resources are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media and other digital teaching and learning assets.
The middle school and high school will focus on GVC standards development and building-specific content and intervention, Lyons added.
The February professional development day will pick back up on the concept of Proficiency-Based Learning, previously discussed in October, he said.
“The purpose is really to expand beyond standards-based grading, but really look at what does proficiency look like, and how do we support our students in that area?” he said.
Lyons said the district had been in contact with an area school engaged in Proficiency-Based Learning, getting some ideas.
“But we’re just continuing to learn,” he said. “It’s an introduction and really digging into theory and philosophy behind that and building our own capacity k-12.”